This Rangers versus the taxman saga seems to never go away. Yesterday an upper tier judge dismissed an appeal from ‘Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs’ (HMRC) against the ruling from the first-tier trial against the use of EBT’s from the old company that ran Rangers.
We have no real victors in this case. It can be spun in so many ways that all sides can claim some small wins in their favour. Basically some mistakes were made at Rangers and those mistakes were compounded by the HMRC with their own mistakes and their reluctance to judge certain costs/fines properly.
The whole debacle pushed ‘Oldco’ Rangers very close to precipice. But lets face it, it wasn’t the sole reason why they were on that edge in the first place.
Sir David Murray was reckless in his spending and he didn’t see the world financial meltdown coming. His overzealous spending at Rangers and his fall out with the bank, cannot be viewed as smart business acumen.
Obviously it was Craig Whyte’s tenure that threw the club off the cliff with its administration and then eventual liquidation. Whyte knew exactly what he was doing, so I for one will never call him a scapegoat. His using ‘Peter to pay Paul’ methods were always going to come back and bite Rangers on the backside. I’m totally bewildered by his actions and goading HMRC with the small tax bill and PAYE going unpaid. The whole deal just shone a bright light onto Whyte and his dodgy business dealings, so was it worth it Mr Whyte?
Had HMRC done a deal or at least wanted more realistic fines, like the courts have since suggested, then Rangers would have been a better business opportunity for potential new owners who wanted to run the club in a viable way with the existing company.
Should HMRC have taken the matter to court?
Of course. They won with certain provisos. If they believe that wrongdoing has taken place and that they can win a court case, then they should be free to challenge any company. But for me, the only way a company like HMRC can run is without any bias. For example, they either do deals or they don’t. They made public statements during the Rangers case saying ‘We don’t do deals’ but alas there seems to be evidence to the contrary regarding Vodafone and Goldman Sachs.
I do question the £134m figure that seemed to be easily banded about as the figure that Rangers would owe after the tax case. That figure is closer to £20m plus the £18m the club owed to the bank. That would have been a debt of around £38m, easier to manage and deal with in the right hands.
Talk has it that HMRC are now contemplating appealing yet another court decision based on this particular case. What does this say about the revenues and customs office? The business is now dead and gone. Yet they continue to throw good taxpayers money down the drain as they can’t persuade a number of judges that they are 100% in the right. One appeal is enough, anything more when it’s at the cost of the taxpayer is just as reckless as Murray was during his Gers stint. Accept what the judges have said and let it go.
What about the Rangers support?
Some commentators have written diatribes about the Rangers fans being at fault for not calling out David Murray sooner. Ack hindsight is a wonderful thing and lets not forget Murray’s regime didn’t always use EBT’s.
When certain Gers fans were questioning Murray, in 2002, when the club hit a debt of £80m, the man himself was worth an estimated £300m that same year and was worth over £700m by 2008 according to the Times rich-list. Also lets not forget that their was never any football debt during his tenure until after Whyte took over. So with those facts, who would have questioned Murray too much and with what reason? He did fail to cover any potential bill and interest on the EBT’s but how many football fans know that much about such big financial matters?
The same people/writers that blame the Gers support would have walked on to the fields of France in November the 12th 1918 and said ‘you probably shouldn’t have started shooting each other’ as dead bodies that lay at their feet. Their comments deflecting blame at the Rangers fans and saying ‘you should have done more’ are pointless and irrelevant. All they want is website hits, an argument or to say ‘nah nah’. Its gloating at its lowest form in my opinion.
Should the Rangers fans try and take HMRC to court? Not for me. It is yet another pointless and potentially costly exercise. You cannot undo history. Yes I don’t blame the fans but the business its self was still toxic, proven by David Murray’s reluctance to take on the responsibility of the tax case and sell the club on to someone who truly believed in Rangers as a growing concern.
They should seek answers and ask why HMRC decided to to keep going on and on with the course and come up with the £134m figure. But don’t hold your breathe waiting for an answer.
Did the press help with the downfall?
Well some could have done better when commentating on the tax cases, I feel a few were slightly biased. But it was also a hard case to call as it involved sports reporting and financial reporting, the two don’t often mix well especially when you add the legalities of it all. The clamour to credit a certain ‘blog’ that seemed to know too much about the case, isn’t the media’s finest hour. But in Scotland the media have to walk a thin line between two tribes and whatever you say will usually make one of those tribes angry and upset.
The SFA aren’t blameless either, they rubber stamped the Whyte takeover without much investigation and then fine the club for his failings. That isn’t in the best interests of Scottish football.
The whole vicious circle always comes back to Sir David Murray though. He is the one that Rangers fans should want to hear from the most. He was unwilling to take on the full responsibilities of his actions, hence not accepting the accountability of the tax cases. For me, Murray knew what Craig Whyte was all about but the fact is he really just wanted to hand over the burden of pulling the plug on the life support machine, Murray’s pride wouldn’t let him do it.
But in truth, the best thing for all involved is to move on and learn from the mistakes, that they’ve all made. The fans should never allow owners to work without questioning every move. I have always called for one fans voice, there is still too many unions and fan bodies. I think fan ownership could work at Ibrox but only when the fans learn to trust each other.
The media can and should evaluate how they covered the story and learn not to trust certain anonymous sources.
HMRC should learn to respect the judgement of the courts and stop fighting every single decision.
Hopefully this is my last article on the subject.